From burden to blessing

Today, Radna Krishna Jude Michael is described by his mother as “her blessing”. He is a courteous young man and a professional tailor. He makes Rs. 3,000/week ($49 USD), more than either of his parents, and ensures they are well fed and well clothed. His mother proudly displays the beautiful sari he bought for her. Not only does he support his family, he volunteers in his community and is considered a model citizen. Jude is also deaf.

Twenty-five years ago, Radna Krishna and his wife Mary Anna Bernard welcomed their second baby boy, and named him Radna Krishna Jude Michael. The family was poor, surviving on income earned from casual work in the small village of Gurutalawa in Uva Province in Sri Lanka.

Joy over the addition of new baby changed quickly to despair when it was learned that young Jude was deaf. The family tried to manage for a few years, but as Jude got older, the situation became untenable for the family. Unable to cope, Mary took the extreme step of placing Jude into a home for unwanted children. The family did not have the resources or skills to deal with the burden of a handicapped child.

Little Jude was six years old, abandoned and unable to communicate since his family did not know sign language and he had never been to any school, never mind one for the deaf. Despite the situation, he was a cheerful and charming little boy. The orphanage was forced to contact Jude’s family a few months after they placed him in the institution. The boy was missing, apparently taken by someone who did not go through any official adoption procedures.

Two months later, Jude was returned to the orphanage and left at the gate. He was well fed, well clothed and had some money in his pockets. A note stated that the family that took him didn’t realize he was deaf and didn’t want to keep him. Jude’s family was informed of his surprising reappearance. Mary decided to bring him home. She loved her son and refused to lose him again. Working with the local priest, a school for the deaf was located and scholarships arranged. Jude, newly reunited with his parents and brother started at the Sudarshani School for the Deaf in Ella.

After graduation from high school with his O-level (General Certificate in Education qualification), Jude joined the WUSC tailoring course at the Development Foundation for the Disabled in Banderawela where he graduated with technical skills in tailoring and life skills to support his independence.

A high school graduate and fluent in written Sinhala and sign language, Jude completed the WUSC supported tailoring course and found work as a tailor right away. WUSC provides a tool kit to vocational training graduates, as long as they make their required contribution. Jude saved the necessary funds and received his tools of the trade at a ceremony in March 2014.

Since his older brother has married and moved away, Jude has assumed responsibility for his parents and is active in his community. Mary has noticed that attitudes are changing in Gurutalawa. She is proud of her son and the community members treat him with respect. Jude has amazed many people with the abilities of someone considered disabled.

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